tv PBS News Hour Weekend PBS September 8, 2013 5:30pm-6:01pm PDT
the obama administration goes on a media blitz to convince a skeptical public to support military action in syria. in our signature segment, broadway's most celebrated living composer and lyricist, stephen sondheim. >> i can't imagine anybody approaching every single new project without doubt. in fact, i fink if you do it is probably not going to turn out that well. >> and, from bogota columbia to columbia south carolina, caring for the homeless next, on pbs newshour weekend made possible by judy and josh westin, the wallace family. the cheryl and philip millstein
family, rauz ln p. walter. corporate funding provided by mutual of america, designing customized, individual and group retirement products. that is why we are your retirement company. additional support provided by -- and by the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. this is pbs news hour weekend. good evening. thanks for joining us on this first sunday of our new broadcast. i'm hari sreenivasan. the president of syria, bashar-al-assad, said he is readying his nation for an attack by the united states and plans to retaliate if there is one. assad made his comments in an exclusive interview with charlie rose. rose talked to us by phone . >> my first question would you
expect a strike. he said he did not know. asked if he was move things around. he talked about that retaliation if there is a strike he couldn't talk about that but suggested clearly that both syria and some of his friends would retaliate in some way. he denies that he had anything to do with the chemical attacks, basically says -- make all of the obvious points he pointed to the evidence that john kerry has, he says why would i make it public. there have been other cases in which we suggested somebody had when they hadn't. >> this occurred as the obama administration launched an all-out media blitz today in an effort to persuade a skeptical public and congress about the need for a military attack.
the president will address the nation tuesday night. tomorrow, he is granting interviews to six network anchors, including the newshour's gwen ifill. /today, he sent white house chief of staff denis mcdonough to all the morning talk shows. mcdonough made the point -- again and again -- that any attack against assad's regime would be very contained. >> this is not iraq. >> this is not iraq. >> not a situation like iraq. >> this is not iraq or afghanistan or libya. this is not an extended air campaign. this is something targeted, limited and effective so as to under score that he should not think that he can get away with this again. >> the obama administration today pressed its efforts to win international support as well. in paris , secretary of state john kerry tried to drum up support for military action during a meeting with arab leaders. afterwards, he said saudi arabia supports the us plan. but the foreign minister of qatar stopped short of supporting any military action.
>> translator: as for syria and what qatar is willing to provide, qatar is currently studying with its friends and the united nations what it could provide in order to protect the syrian people. >> secretary of state kerry said at least 10 countries are now backing military action against assad's regime. but france, a staunch supporter of that approach, now wants to wait until un inspectors issue their findings about the chemical attack that the u.s. says killed more than 14-hundred syrians. and today, kerry said the obama administration could conceivably go before the un security council before taking military action. meanwhile, opponents of military action -- from both the left and the right -- made their case today. the progressive group, move on dot org, started running this ad to try to convince congress not to go along with the president. >> we never set out to spend eight years at war in iraq or to be mired down for more than a
decade of fighting in afghanistan. so what should america expect if we rush into syria, alone, with no real plan for the consequences? we already know, it gets worse. >> and conservative republican senator rand paul pledged he would do all he could to stop american military intervention. >> i will insist there is full debate on this and i will insist i get an amendment and my amendment will say that the vote is binding, that the president cannot if we vote him down decide to go to war anyway. this is not constitutional theater. >> of course, that whole media campaign is ultimately aimed at members of congress who will decide in the next days and weeks whether to support military action in syria. we are joined by susan davis, a congressional reporter for "usa today." a lot of people might not realize this could take several weeks to play out and the decision is not happening immediately. >> it's entirely possible.
it depends on how well the president's message is received on tuesday, what sense we get whether members of congress are coming together on this or falling apart on this. the first test of this is going to come wednesday when the senate will have a test vote. if the senate runs out the clock it could come as late as the weekend on next weekend and the house has made clear they are not going to vote until the senate proves they can pass something. if that is the case it could go until the week after next. the first two weeks back seem to be clearly dominated. >> we heard from senator rand paul that he wants to do everything he can to stop it and he has a history of filibuster. >> i think what we are going to see in the test vote on wednesday when you need a 60-vote threshold to get past this. i think harry reid has been confident he can get there in part because some democrats,
going to pose the resolution but would not necessarily be a vote to uphold a filibust r. people are going to vote against it in the end but don't want to be obstructionalests. >> in a recent survey by the the associated press it said half the senate and a third of the house are against it. >> the one absolute we have heard from every member of congress we talked to is that they are hearing from constituents about it and ten to one are against it. i think that is part of the odds stacked against the president as he tries to make his case to congress. i caution that a lot of the vote counts are lean nos and lean yess. we are coming off of a five week break. a lot have not been privy to the classified briefings. while it is an indicator and while there does not seem to be much momentum moving in the favor of the president there are still a lot of factors that
weigh in on how the vote comes down. it seems in the republican-controlled house it is much more of an uphill battle. not only to get republicans on board but traditionally presidents have had to rely on members of their own party. democrats control the senate. they have about 200 votes in the house. it seems clear they have to build the majority of the support if the resolution has any chance of passing congress. >> considering there are both edges of the political spectrum stacked against the president here, what does he have to do to try to reach both democrats and republicans? >> one thing that i think they are listening to on tuesday night along with their constituents is the argument that the president makes. partly they made it as a national security argument. i think what we have seen through the weekend and coming from the president is the humanitarian element to it. i think it is a question of morality and right and wrong, whether we can allow people who
perpetrated chemical attacks and killed hundreds of children to do so without prepercussions. i think it comes down to a question of what is right and what is wrong. less than it is anything backed away from the argument that this is not potentially an immediate threat to the national security of the united states which is a litmus test for a lot of members. but he has to make a clear emotional appeal to the sense of humanity. >> thanks so much. >> thanks for having me. >> back overseas -- there's been a spate of violence in afghanistan. the taliban set off a car bomb outside an intelligence office near kabul and then tried to launch a separate attack on the building. four soldiers and six insurgents were killed in the ensuing battle. in a separate incident, a nato airstrike is said to have killed 10 militants. but there were reports that
eight civilians -- including seven women and children -- also died in the attack. there was an important election in moscow today. a key dissident figure, alexei navalny, apparently has come up short in his bid to become the mayor of moscow. he was defeated by the incumbent, a close ally of president vladimir putin. navalny says his own exit polls show the contest should have progressed to a runoff. earlier, navalny was convicted on embezzlement charges -- charges he claims were trumped up by the kremlin to punish him for his anti-corruption campaign.
he faces a five-year jail term. from germany tonight... the magazine der spiegel is reporting that america's national security agency is capable of accessing user data on most major smart phones, including apple iphones, blackberries, and on devices using google's android operating system. the magazine says its report is based on top secret nsa documents that it has seen. on friday google announced that it has accelerated efforts to encrypt all its data. that followed earlier reports about nsa abilities to break digital locks. a google vice president compared the situation to "an arms race"
for that is christina bellantoni. she is the newshour's political editor. this would otherwise be a consequential week in congress. what's going on? >> there are a lot of things on congress's plate. one thing we thought the house would be turning to is immigration reform. the senate passed by overwhelming majority a comprehensive bill. lawmakers not in favor of a comprehensive approach are putting peace meal legislation on the floor to address the visa system and that would get people towards a compromise package. that is not going to happen given what is happening with syria. the other major piece of this is spending, the debt, the deficit and what they are doing about funding the government. >> one of the folks on facebook was asking about the government shut down. why isn't anybody talking about that? we have nine days or so? >> congress will have nine working days.
what they need to do is come up with what isn as a continuing resolution because of a divided government they don't actually have the ability to pass a real budget that keeps the government funded and looks at levels of spending. instead they have short term resolutions in place for one year. that has been getting shorter and shorter. this is the third time we have had such a big argument about how to fund the government. and it expires on september 30. if there is not one in place by then that means a partial or full government shut down. the big sticking point here is a lot of house republicans in the senate would like to see the president's health care law defunded, parts of it that would be implemented over the fall over the next few months, they can take away the funding for that. if that isn't agreed to by that september 30 deadline it could be a real fight. in addition to that you have the limit for what the government can spend on its debt. and that is coming to p
soon. so that is all getting lumped into one big argument about spending. >> so a little bit about this obama care push to try to repeal it again. it has been attested many different times. why now? >> well, partially you see groups like the heritage foundation and other conservative groups really capitalize on the popularity. senator ted rucruz is one of th. they are planning a massive rally on tuesday. i shouldn't say massive. we don't know which side it is going to be. the focus is mostly on syria and the presidential address on tuesday. they are going to have the defund obama care rally in washington to make the case for that saying we have a lot of unanswered questions about it. they are angry that the white house delayed the employer mandate for implementation of the health care law. and what they are trying to do is choke it a little bit so it doesn't get fully implemented.
democrats are using this as a campaign issue, as well. >> thanks so much. >> thank you. want to know what political stories to watch out for every day? subscribe to the morning line e-mail. every weekend broadcast, as the news allows, we will be including another feature. it might be about business, science and technology, religion, the media, or the arts. especially the arts. in coming months, we plan to showcase arts content being produced by reporters at pbs stations across the nation. tonight, though, our report is by someone probably much more familiar to you, jeffrey brown. recently, he caught up with one of america's legegendary arts figures -- stephen sondheim -- who reflected on the seemingly endless awards coming his way in his advanced years -- and on the creative process that keeps him young at heart.
hello. welcome all you raging sondheimians! who have made the pilgrimage here today to bask in the >> a glorious august day in southern new hampshire and the prestigious macdowell arts colony is giving its annual medal to musical theater's most celebrated living composer and lyricist, stephen sondheim. in its 106 years, macdowell, which has given countless artists a place to do their work, has honored the likes of aaron copland, philip roth, and edward albee, but never before an artist from musical theatre. sondheim told us he's grateful for the honor but he admits to at least some ambivalence about the 'elder statesman' treatment. >> as you get older, you get-- a lot of-- a lot of awards, yeah. it's-- you get-- you get venerable.
>> you get venerable? yeah. how do you feel about being venerable? it's good and bad. it-- you start believing your own notices, and that's not so good. and so at 83, sondheim isn't simply enjoying the admiration of his many fans.. he taking on new challenges. he's working on a project debuting in the fall with jazzman wynton marsalis, that's billed as a celebration of new york and a re-imagination of sondheim's work. disney is producing a film version of his musical "into the woods." ♪ i was caught unaaware >> and he's also working on a new musical called "all together now" with playwright david ives.
>> everybody who faces a blank piece of paper no matter what they have written or composed before, i can't imagine anybody approaching every single new project without doubt. in fact, if you do it is probably not going to turn out well. >> something that is dangerous, something you are not smug about, not certain about. sondheim's been suprising audiences and critics for nearly 60 years now. he's won a pulitzer, 8 tonys, 8 grammys and an academy award. it all dates back to the 1950s, when he wrote the lyrics to leonard bernstein's score for 'west side' story. >> but even this early success was more complicated than sondheim had imagined.
>> i certainly wanted my name in lights. i wanted my name on a marquee. i wanted recognition on broadway and then once i had my name on a marquee on broadway with west side story, suddenly 'geethat's all that is.' really? i felt in a way deflated. yeah. because it was exciting but, ok, now what? and then you realize that you do that because you wanna write something that you like, as opposed to write something that's gonna get your name in lights or be successful. >> over the next decades, as broadway arguably went lighter sondheim went deeper, using language and music to explore complex ideas. adult relationships in "company" joet you do live with her, you're scared she's starting to drift away, and scared she'll stay. >> the artistic process itself
in "sunday in the park with george". ♪ lives a little space in the way like the window ♪ >> and murderous vengeance in what many believe to be his masterwork, "sweeney todd" set in victorian london. >> in show after show steve kept pushing the boundary of the mus musical. >> frank rich introduced him and spoke to us. >> i found he single-handedly has kept the modern musical
theater in a serious place. it could have petered out and been all frivolous lowest common denominator. sondheim kept the past, it doesn't have to be all "cats" and special effects and chorus girls and boys. >> did you ever in your career have times where you were afraid to write because of the high expectations that were placed around you? >> the older i get the more that is true, absolutely. >> still? >> absolutely. what that means is suddenly you are not thinking about yourself. you are thinking about the audience. as soon as you think about the audience from that point of view you are dead. suddenly you are thinking of yourself as an icon and a figure. that is just deadly. >> that's the trouble with awards for a body of work. they tell you what you have been doing was worth the doing and wrong because they ought to come
when you are young and excited and hungry for assurance that what you are doing is worth the doing. age, doubts and, yes, new honors are part of his life now. but, sondheim says: the challenge, the work, keeps him going. >> that's why i don't like the word career. when somebody says to me, 'oh, you've had such a wonderful career', i think, 'career that's after you're dead' i just don't think that way. >> and how do you think? i mean just day to day? >> that's it. one show at a time. >> piece to piece and show to show. that just keeps you excited. >> absolutely. sure. then i'm 20 years old again. and what you wanna do it get back to what you were like at 20. you gotta get hungry again. and the older and more venerated you get, the less hungry you get. but as soon as you get hungry, then it's fun again. this is pbs "news hour
weekend sunday". >> one issue unlikely to take up much time in congress this fall is -homelessness.... even though 600,000 americans are homeless, including thousands of veterans. what are the cities doing about it? that's the subject of our regular feature, the connection. we came across a story from bogota columbia about that city's ambitious new plan -- not only to feed the homeless -- but to offer them a shower, shave and vaccinations too. >> we do this with the goal of restoring their dignity. >> that same day, we read another story about the homeless in columbia, columbia, south carolina. that city is now offering its homeless a choice -- voluntarily go to a shelter.
not downtown or face arrest. local merchants had complained that homeless people near their shops were hurting business. >> we pay taxes, property taxes, business taxes, business license fees and we deserve protection of our city. that city is not alone. a new york community group has sued the bloomberg administration for housing the homeless in their neighborhood. and in indianapolis, police arrested four homeless who refused to leave the camp they had set up under a bridge. you have to wonder if there'd be more sympathy for the homeless if we actually heard from them. >> think about what happened after a reporter engaged a homeless man two years ago in columbus, ohio. the reporter had been intrigued by the man's sign, claiming he was a former radio announcer. >> i'm going to make you work for your dollar, say something with that great radio voice. e. >> when you're listening to nothing but the best of oldies you're listening to magic 98.9.
the tape the reporter shot quickly went viral. and the homeless man was soon flown to new york where he appeared on the todahow... he was then offered a job doing voiceover work for kraft. o/c that got us thinking about the all the others still out on the streets. what are their stories? how do they get home?. recapping today's top story... the obama administration goes on a media blitz to convince a skeptical public to support military action in syria. a few programming notes... you can see charlie rose's exclusive interview with syrian president bashar al-assad in a special primetime broadcast on pbs monday night. and tomorrow night on the pbs newshour - gwen ifill and judy woodruff officially launch their anchor partnership. gwen will have an interview with president obama. >> visit us online to see our brand new look. all that is at newshour.pbs.org i'm hari sreenivasan, thanks for watching.
-- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com made possible by judy and josh westin, the cheryl and philip millstein family. corporate funding provided by mutual of america, designing customized, individual and group retirement products. that's why we're your retirement company. additional support is provided by -- and by the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.